Was Mao really born on the 26th of December?

Was Mao really born on the 26th of December?maosun1-300x217

(llco.org)

Around this time, every year, we see people celebrating December 26th as the day of Mao’s birth. Whole groups, like the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines, celebrate this day not only as the day of Mao’s birth, but also as the anniversary of the founding of their own organizations. It always struck me how close this day was to the day that Christians celebrate as Christmas, as the day of Jesus’s birth. Christmas is celebrated just a day earlier, December 25th. Is it just coincidence that both Mao and Jesus share almost the same birth day?

It is no secret that Jesus’s birth was placed around or on the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice had long been a holy day for pre-Christian religions. Christians have a long history of appropriating elements of pagan religions in order to win converts. Jesus often is represented as the light, the sun. For example, in John 8, he states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So, both Jesus and the sun, both the light that nourishes the world, is born on the solstice. But, it is not just Jesus who has been represented as the sun. In the twentieth century, as Mao’s cult of personality reached religious proportions, Mao too was portrayed as the sun. Over and over, Mao’s head was portrayed with the sun behind it shining down to nourish sunflowers, which represent the masses. This was a recurring theme in Maoist art. “The East is Red,” the unofficial anthem of Maoist China, uses this imagery:

“The east is red, the sun is rising.

From China comes Mao Zedong.

He strives for the people’s happiness,

Hurrah, he is the people’s great saviour!

(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people,

He is our guide

to building a new China

Hurrah, lead us forward!

(Repeat last two lines)

 

The Communist Party is like the sun,

Wherever it shines, it is bright

Wherever the Communist Party is

Hurrah, the people are liberated!

(Repeat last two lines)

(Repeat first verse)”

 

How reliable were birth records in the late 1800s and early 1900s in a rural China dominated by warlords and colonial forces? Given that the Chinese Communist Party often rewrote its history in a very mythologized way, could it be that Mao’s birthday was made to correspond to the winter solstice? It could be a big, happy coincidence that the sun of the Chinese revolution just happened to be born on the solstice, but it is at least as likely that the December 26th date is a later fabrication. If it is indeed a later invention, then it just shows the religious extremes of Mao’s cult of personality at its height. It is also worth noting that other cults of personality have fabricated information about the births of their leaders. For example, the Kim family cult in northern Korea has created a myths that the Kim family is linked to Tangun, the mythological progenitor of the Korean people. As part of this, the northern Korean cult has sought to link the Kims to Mount Peaktu. The question of Mao’s actual birth day is a question that will require more research to settle. In any case, Mao was a great, if flawed, revolutionary who deserves to be honored not as an infallible sun, but as a real hero who changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better. In this sense, the real Mao, warts and all, is better than any myth.

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